Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Teachers blame EBacc for decline in music student numbers

10:09, 10th March 2017

New research has found that nearly 60% of teachers from state schools believe that the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is having a negative impact on the numbers of students choosing to study music.

Researchers from the University of Sussex surveyed secondary music teachers at 657 state and 48 private schools across England over a five-year period.

Teachers from 393 state schools claimed that the EBacc is having a negative impact on the provision and uptake of music within their own school and on the wider curriculum, while just 3% believed it had benefited the subject.

The results of the survey are in contrast to a recent report by the New Schools Network, which claimed that the introduction of the EBacc has had ‘no discernible impact on the popularity of the arts at GCSE’ over the last five years.

The research also found that, over the five years leading up to 2016-17, the schools participating in the survey entered fewer students for music qualifications. Schools offering music BTEC level 2 fell from from 166 in 2012/13 to 50 in 2016/17, and the number offering music GCSE dropped from 85% in 2012/13 to 79% in 2016/17.

The study also found that music was compulsory for students aged 13 to 14 in 84% of schools in 2012/13, but this figure had fallen to 62% by 2016/17. In 30% of secondary schools the music department now consists of just one teacher, an increase from 22% five years ago.

Co-author Dr Ally Daubney warned that ‘music as a subject could be facing extinction’, while fellow co-author Duncan Mackrill said the future of the subject was ‘precariously balanced’ and urged the government to take action ‘to prevent the further erosion of music in secondary schools, before we lose the subject in some schools for good.’

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, called the research ‘hugely important’ and called on ministers ‘to listen to the evidence and drop the EBacc before any more damage is done’.

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